Hilltop Children’s Center – doubled revenue for a tenth of the cost

Hilltop Children’s Center is a high quality school and professional development institute of early learning and inquiry that has been serving the Seattle community since 1971. Working with the next generation of inventors, leaders, thinkers, artists, and […]

Utah, ending homelessness and lessons for us all

Mother Jones recently ran a fantastic article about a way to completely solve the chronic homeless problem, which has important lessons for any social organization.

There are over 600,000 homeless people in the United States at […]

The Real Story on Impact

Many social-sector thinkers are still writing about how to measure non-profit impact. Perry Yeatman highlighted some general approaches in her suggested 5 New Year’s Resolutions About Nonprofit Measurement at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and David Hessekiel’s post last week at Forbes, Here’s […]

February Workshop: Big Impact – nonprofits that moved the needle


Even though non-profit staff are passionate about their mission, most non-profits never reach their full impact potential. Organizations that succeed aren’t satisfied with staying small.  They can quantify the problem they are solving, they know […]

Nonprofit moonshot: foster graduation rates increased 50%

High performing, high achieving non-profits are something that we can use a lot more of these days.  That’s why we are so encouraged with the example that Treehouse has set.

There are important lessons here for […]

For your toolkit: Business Plan outline

Here’s something every non-profit should have, but fewer than 1% actually do: a real business plan. With a concrete, measurable vision of success.  With metrics. Milestones. A financial projection. And clear strategy for revenue and […]

Before You Write That Holiday Appeal…

…stop and think.  Think about the people receiving your letter.

It’s the holiday season.  You and every other non-profit—there are about twenty five thousand in Puget Sound, and hundreds of thousands nationally—are furiously churning out the […]

32 Theses about Nonprofit Compensation

Just in time for our December workshop on the topic, our friend and accomplished nonprofit leader Jon Stahl published this provocative post, 32 Theses about Nonprofit Compensation. Our favorites:
4. The skills and talent nonprofits need to […]

December 9 Workshop: Everyone at this non-profit got a 30% raise in one year – what they did and how you can do it too


Non-profit employees are traditionally far underpaid for their work. Not only is this terrible for staff, it is a drag on the mission.

We have the fix. Here’s how to give everyone at your non-profit a […]

November 11 Workshop: Stop Chasing Pennies for your Mission—simple steps you can take right now to raise the big bucks for your non-profit

Most non-profits have great programs, but they are held back by a lack of money. What’s worse, most current practices—and nearly all of the advice from “experts”—are just plain ineffective.

We have the solution. Attendees will […]

October 14 Workshop: 5 Simple Steps to Building a Powerful Non-profit Board – what really works and what doesn’t

With their leadership and experience, non-profit board members have tremendous value to deliver. But despite all that’s been written and said on the subject, most board members lack clear, focused, concise guidance about how to […]

New workshop Series for Nonprofit Board Members, CEOs, and Staff

In response to recent inquiries, we are pleased to offer a series of workshops that examine enterprise thinking and methodology to three particular endeavors: building powerful boards, scaling up revenue, and getting staff compensation up […]

An open letter to Dan Pallotta

Dear Dan,

We all love you. You’ve moved an important conversation forward about the charitable sector. You are a great influence on me and my firm’s work.

So I want to help you. Because you need it.

It’s […]

Sep 9 Workshop: The nonprofit as social enterprise – reaching scale and sustainability

Join us for an interactive workshop on how a variety of non-profits have achieved dramatic growth in their program impact and sustainable revenue. Learn how they have applied best practices from the business world with […]

Don’t talk about “the need.” Talk about the solution.

Important message to the non-profit sector: when you talk to the world, don’t use the word “need.”

As soon as charities talk about “the need,” they position themselves as passive and ineffective.  “Need” says “I need help […]

What events are for

No, events are not for raising money.*  Charities that rely on events primarily for income are suffering from severe opportunity cost and strategic misalignment.  Especially charities that run auctions– the most expensive and mission incompatible species […]

What Boards Should Do

We are often asked to help with “Board Development” and we always politely decline. Generally speaking, spending time on “Board Development” treats the symptom not the disease.

Here’s our take.

Board Members have 3 duties:

hire and fire the ED;
make sure […]

Keep it tight. Stay focused.

The people who run the wonderful TED talks have it figured out: people don’t pay attention for much longer than 18 minutes.

They understand the broader context: we live in the age of Information Overload. In […]

United Way Presentation Materials

For the attendees at my recent United Way Seminar, I offer the following resources:

the slide deck
a detailed business plan template
all the ideas and resources on our ideas page: a template for a financial projections; a white paper on getting out of […]

A Gem on Leadership

There is way way too much low-value noise in the business leadership and practice space, but occasionally there are a few gems that bring us back to basics.   Check out this excellent list of […]

Test: answer these 3 questions in 200 words or fewer

After years of helping non-profits, we’ve boiled everything down to the essentials, inventing our own tools along the way. 

Our approach to the old “mission, vision, and values” exercise is a good example.  First, this exercise […]

Where is your leverage?

Leverage is a word that is thrown around by a lot of venture capital and entrepreneur types, and for good reason.

Leverage is the magic that multiplies your force.  With a crowbar, you can use a […]

Where is your financial projection?

All non-profits need financial projections: detailed budgets going out three to five years that show people where you get your money and what you plan to spend it on.

They are gotta-haves, mission-critical tools for BOTH your […]

Fix Your Funding Crisis

We wrote this white paper back in 2009 when many non-profits had their financial rug pulled out from underneath them.

What business and non-profits can learn from each other.

Too often, the business and non-profit communities point out each other’s flaws.  What they should be doing is learning from each other.   There is great untapped potential here.

Business people complain that non-profits are ineffective […]

A Solution to a HUGE problem

A major reason most small to mid-sized non-profits fail to capture their full growth potential is because they follow the pattern of hiring a Development Director and assigning that position the central responsibilities for generating […]

A Classic Heartwarming Story, Retold

The parable below is supposed to celebrate the perseverance and nobility of the non-profit sector.  But, in truth, it shows how non-profits can sometimes unfortunately think with the heart instead of the brain.

Here goes.

“Two people walk […]

It shouldn’t take money to make money

Nearly all of the 1.4 million non-profit organizations in the U.S. have budgets under $1M. Together they comprise nearly 8% of our economy, delivering tremendous benefit to us all.

Most of these small organizations want to […]

The Best Books about Nonprofits

These are the best books written on the non-profit sector.  They are powerful and well written.  Anyone who works in or cares about the sector should devour them.

Uncharitable  by Dan Pallotta

With Charity for All  by Ken Stern

Good […]

Don’t ignore what is most important

In the immortal words of William Wordsworth, “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

It is understandable that most non-profits are focused on two things: getting money and spending it on their programs. But this […]

From non-profit to social enterprise in 5 easy pieces.

The difference between a garden-variety non-profit and an ambitious social enterprise may be seen in how they answer these 5 questions.  Which one are you?

1. What problem are you solving?  We mean solving.  Not nibbling […]

Most “strategic plans” aren’t good for much

They have nice pictures and graphics.  They are full of vision- and value-statements and plenty of uplifting language. But there’s an absence of clear, concrete direction.  And since implemention isn’t clear, and there is an […]

Quiz on best practices

Question 1:
If your organization raises, say, $1m annually in charitable contributions, you should be spending about how much on your entire development operation, including staff salaries?
Answer 1:
$100K. Best practice development operations produce at least $10 […]

Barriers to Success

We are very good strategists, operational experts, and financiers.  We are proud of our track record catalyzing success at a wide variety of nonprofits.

But our very best efforts aren’t successful 100% of the time.

Why?  Well, […]

Do you send junk mail?

Nearly every charity has a ‘direct mail’ program. These are more accurately called ‘junk mail’ programs, as standard response rates hover around 1%.

That’s right– send out a thousand letters, get maybe ten back with checks, […]

Don’t raise money at events.

Auctions. Galas. Raffles. Car washes. Bake sales. Walk-a-thons.

Charitable fundraising events are so ubiquitous, how can they be a bad thing? Here’s how: they waste time and money. They cost the host enormous amounts of opportunity.

With […]

Are you a social profit or a non-profit?

How well do the following statements describe your 501(C)3 organization? Give yourself 1 point if the description matches little or not at all; 2 points if there is a partial match; and 3 if there […]